NFL Key Numbers for Betting

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  • We can identify key numbers in the NFL by looking at historical score margins.
  • Using the frequency of each margin, we can give an expected ROI for buying a half point at different price points.
  • Key numbers for the first and second half are similar to full game key numbers, with some crucial differences.

Anyone who does any NFL betting has heard of key numbers for point spreads before.  Key numbers are simply the most common margins of victory.  For example, a final score of 24-21 would have a margin of victory of 3 points.  What’s really important is just how often the key numbers occur.

We included all games since 1989 in our research. Over 15% of all NFL games have been decided by exactly three points. That’s almost twice as common as the next number on the list.

Here is the full list of common final scoring margins (also known as “key numbers”).  In the tables that follow we look at how we can use these numbers as a guideline for buying points on NFL games.

NFL Key Numbers for Sides & Point Spreads

Final Score MarginGamesFrequency
3 Points133915.39%
7 Points7618.74%
6 Points5085.84%
10 Points5065.81%
4 Points4515.18%
14 Points4284.92%
1 Points3544.07%
2 Points3333.83%
17 Points3103.56%
5 Points2933.37%
8 Points2913.34%
13 Points2492.86%
11 Points2412.77%
21 Points2282.62%
20 Points1942.23%
18 Points1862.14%
24 Points1822.09%
16 Points1802.07%
9 Points1481.70%
12 Points1481.70%
15 Points1461.68%
28 Points1441.65%
27 Points1221.40%
19 Points1031.18%
23 Points991.14%
31 Points991.14%
25 Points901.03%
22 Points891.02%
26 Points660.76%
35 Points570.65%
34 Points500.57%
30 Points440.51%
38 Points420.48%
29 Points420.48%
32 Points390.45%
37 Points250.29%
33 Points190.22%
0 Points170.20%
41 Points130.15%
40 Points100.11%
36 Points100.11%
45 Points90.10%
42 Points80.09%
39 Points70.08%
43 Points60.07%
44 Points40.05%
49 Points30.03%
46 Points20.02%
48 Points20.02%
52 Points10.01%
58 Points10.01%
55 Points10.01%
59 Points10.01%
54 Points10.01%
51 Points10.01%

This information on football key numbers is surely interesting, but if you want to use it for NFL handicapping then you are going to have to expand on it a little bit. You need to know how often favorites win by those margins and when they did, how often the spread within a half point of the key numbers.  Or, you can use this knowledge to cross the most key numbers.  Our teaser of the week strategy article during the season will give you the games with the opportunity to cross the most valuable numbers.  Our NFL teaser guide gives you the best odds to take advantage of with these bets.

This is why we always to recommend to clients to open up accounts at different sportsbooks so we can shop around for the best line. If you look back to your history with wagering, how many times did you lose a game by a half a point?

Now we want to take a look when buying a half-point to get onto or off of a key number makes sense. First, let’s see what happens when buying to a key number (often called buying the “hook”) based on NFL lines and results since 1989.  To simplify things, the data below shows the results of betting to win $100 on every wager.

When to Buy Onto or Off of Key Numbers in the NFL

key numbers first half second half

NFL key numbers

Buying Onto Key Numbers

LineBuy ToGamesLoss to PushPush RateAdded LossesAdded Wins10 Cent +/-20 Cent +/-25 Cent +/-10 Cent ROI20 Cent ROI25 Cent ROI

This table highlights when it makes sense to buy onto a number in the NFL. What we are basically looking at is how often you would expect to get a push instead of a loss when buying a half point in the NFL and whether or not it has been historically profitable.

Most sportsbooks will allow you to buy a half point, however, buying on a key number like 3 or 7 will cost you at least 20 cents (so if the line is -3.5 -110, you would have to pay -130 to get it down to -3).  As you can see, very rarely does it pay to buy a half point for 20 cents or more.  Buying from -3.5 to -3 is really the only spread where history says it makes sense to buy on to.

Buying Off of Key Numbers

LineBuy ToGamesPush to WinPush RateAdded LossesAdded Wins10 Cent +/-20 Cent +/-25 Cent +/-10 Cent ROI20 Cent ROI25 Cent ROI

This table looks at buying off of numbers in the NFL, for example, buying from +3 to +3.5.  The idea here is that you would gain a win by buying the half point instead of a push.  Again, not many situations have been profitable over time, however, buying from 3 (to either -2.5 or +3.5) has historically been a smart play, even at a cost of 20 cents.


First Half NFL Key Numbers

Now let’s take a look at the most common margins for the first half of an NFL game.  Since there is a shorter time period of play you can see the margins are condenses more around key and smaller numbers.

1st Half Score MarginGamesFrequency
7 Points109312.56%
3 Points103811.93%
4 Points8159.36%
10 Points7818.97%
0 Points7308.39%
14 Points5766.62%
6 Points4405.06%
11 Points4214.84%
17 Points3614.15%
1 Points3443.95%
13 Points3073.53%
21 Points2222.55%
8 Points2132.45%
18 Points1742.00%
2 Points1671.92%
24 Points1341.54%
20 Points1311.51%
9 Points1241.42%
5 Points1181.36%
15 Points770.88%
16 Points730.84%
12 Points620.71%
28 Points550.63%
23 Points360.41%
25 Points330.38%
19 Points320.37%
27 Points300.34%
22 Points260.30%
31 Points220.25%
35 Points150.17%
32 Points140.16%
26 Points90.10%
34 Points70.08%
30 Points60.07%
33 Points50.06%
38 Points50.06%
41 Points20.02%
29 Points20.02%
42 Points10.01%
45 Points10.01%
40 Points10.01%

Second Half NFL Key Numbers

The second half margins look very similar to the most common first half ones.  Still, this can be very valuable if you are looking to win more of your halftime bets.

2nd Half Score MarginGamesFrequency
7 Points108413.50%
3 Points102512.76%
4 Points7999.95%
10 Points7269.04%
0 Points6737.73%
6 Points5176.44%
14 Points5026.25%
1 Points4665.80%
11 Points3704.61%
13 Points3133.90%
17 Points2963.69%
2 Points2903.61%
8 Points2753.42%
9 Points2302.86%
5 Points2292.85%
21 Points1591.98%
12 Points1301.62%
18 Points1161.44%
20 Points851.06%
16 Points790.98%
15 Points770.96%
24 Points650.81%
19 Points440.55%
28 Points360.45%
22 Points250.31%
25 Points230.29%
23 Points230.29%
27 Points150.19%
31 Points90.11%
26 Points60.07%
35 Points40.05%
29 Points40.05%
30 Points20.02%
38 Points20.02%
36 Points10.01%
33 Points10.01%
39 Points10.01%
34 Points10.01%

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it worth buying points in the NFL?
In most cases, no. At the right key numbers, for the right price, sometimes buying a half point can increase your expected value on a bet.

What does “buy the hook” mean?
Buying the hook typically means buying an additional half point on key numbers, for example, buying a +3 line up to +3.5, where the “hook” is the extra half point.

What is selling points in the NFL?
Selling points is the reverse of buying points where you are giving the book a better line at what appears to be a better price. I’ve yet to see a book that offers good enough alternative lines to make it worth your while to sell points, but it’s certainly possible. As a good rule of thumb, however, you should avoid selling points.

More Key Numbers